Getting your home ready to sell
Before you start inviting people in to look around your home with a view to buying, you have to take the time to ensure that it is looking its very best. You may opt to carry out a facelift on the property before asking an estate agent to value it, but you should definitely do so before prospective buyers start looking around, and certainly before you take any photographs to advertise your home.
You need to begin where anyone seeing your home for the first time will begin, which is to say with the outside of the property and the creation of some genuine kerb appeal.
Not all of the following tips will apply to all properties (if you haven’t got a garden then you won’t be worrying about the state of the lawn, for example), but the general principle is to take a step back and look at your home the way a stranger would.
You may think the cracked paving stones in the path and the broken door knocker are charmingly quirky, but to someone looking for their next home they could signal a degree of neglect. Your job at this stage is to ensure that everything a prospective buyer sees looks as clean and well-maintained as possible.
Use a pressure washer to clean up any larger areas of concrete or paving stones such as a garden path or patio space. If you’ve got a smaller path and a simple front doorstep then get down there with a scrubbing brush and warm water. In both cases, use a detergent expressly designed for outdoor paving, as this will not only get the surfaces clean but also help to prevent mould growth.
You know those repairs you’ve been putting off? Now’s the time to stop procrastinating and get them done. If there’s a broken fence panel in your garden or a twisted bolt on the garden gate then you need to mend or replace it. Things which you and your family may have stopped even noticing over time will stick out like a sore thumb to any prospective buyers.
Treat your lawn
A patchy, weed-ridden or overgrown lawn can dilute the impact of the rest of your garden and create a feeling of negligence. It may just be a question of keeping your lawn neatly mown regularly, or treating it to kill off moss, but if you’re not sure what to do, consult the lawn care section of the Royal Horticultural Society website or if you’re really stumped, call in a professional.
Clear a space
Getting your home ready for viewing is all about creating a blank canvas inside and out, onto which any prospective buyers will hopefully project themselves and their family. When it comes to the garden, this means shifting bulkier items such as lawnmowers and barbecues, although, when it comes to garden furniture, a carefully chosen table and set of chairs in a south-facing garden could work as a selling point.
Add some colour to your space
If your garden's in full bloom, it's guaranteed to impress anyone who comes to look at your home. So, if your outdoor space doesn't have a lot of colour already, planting some shrubs and flowers is a great idea. If you’re naturally green-fingered then this will probably happen by itself, of course, but if you’re not then you can create a pleasing vista by visiting your local garden centre and purchasing a selection of the following:
While you’re out planting them, take the time to cut back any vegetation, such as tree branches or bushes, which may be overhanging paths, doors and windows.
Doors and porches
It’s easy to take your front door for granted, but it's’ going to be the first part of your home that a prospective buyer comes into close contact with. For that reason, it’s well worth smartening up. If the door is uPVC then you can purchase specialist cleaning products. If the door is wooden you could rejuvenate it with a new coat of paint. Choose a colour which complements the style of the building or forms a neat but not too garish contrast, and, if you’ve got a garage door or front gate, then co-ordinate the new colour palette across all three.
Once you’ve painted the door, the hardware – such as numbers, letter boxes and door knockers – will probably look a little worn and shabby in comparison. In most cases, you could simply fit new versions, but if the originals are period features, then just give them a good polish. If your doorbell isn’t as effective as it once was then this is the perfect opportunity to treat your home to a new, hi-tech, wireless version, most of which can be fitted in seconds without the need to be trailing wires anywhere.
If you’ve got the space, then placing potted plants on either side of the door could help to create a stylish and appealing entrance to your home. Evergreen plants offer year-round class, as long as you make sure you choose pots that can handle the elements and still look good.
One of the downsides of starting to clean up one part of the outside of your home is that you start to notice all the other parts that could do with some TLC. For example, old windows, when contrasted with your newly made-over door, could look out of place.
Cleaning the glass of your windows is an obvious place to start, but you could also give the frames the same treatment as the front door – cleaning uPVC versions with specialist cleaner and repainting the wooden ones.
Things you do on the inside could also impact the appearance of the windows from the outside, so ask yourself if they’d look better with new blinds, curtains or shutters.
Inside the house
The first rule of getting the inside of your home ready to be viewed by prospective buyers is to rent a self-storage space for the period over which you’re trying to sell it. People are famously deterred from buying properties if they feel the space is too cluttered, so you could shift everything which you can manage without into storage, opening up the space in your home, de-personalising it for viewers and allowing you to show off the space and the potential it offers to the best effect.
You could clear out your loft, thus highlighting storage space or the potential for a conversion. The same could be said of an empty shed, while a garage cleared of junk will be somewhere prospective buyers could imagine parking their car.
This has the added advantage of letting you make a start on the grand clear-out that’s going to be needed when you do eventually sell your home. People will open cupboards and wardrobes as they look around your home, so make sure that they aren’t hit by an avalanche of items, and also that spaces such as shelves or even the tops of wardrobes are kept clutter-free.
It may hurt to do it, but you’re going to have to hide away (i.e. put into storage) any personal items around your home. This includes pictures of your children, your wedding photographs, award certificates etc. It may seem harsh, but prospective buyers don’t care about your life, they just want to find out if they could imagine themselves living in your home. The less evidence of you and your family they’re given to look at, the easier this leap of imagination will be.
As anyone in the building trade will know, a snag list is a list of those small jobs that need doing when a project has otherwise been finished, such as a cracked kitchen tile that needs replacing, or a mark on the wall that has to be painted over. You need to make the same kind of list walking around your own home, perhaps asking a friend you can trust to be honest to walk around with you and point out those things you might have stopped noticing.
It could be anything from a loose door handle to a leaking tap, a stained carpet or a light bulb that needs replacing. Once you’ve made your snag list, fix the items noted one by one and tick them off.
Cleaning should begin with cleaning the grout on all the tiles in the house because this can easily become grey and worn looking over time, and is often overlooked. You will then need to work through all other areas, including walls, floors and ceilings, window ledges, door handles, the inside and outside of the cooker, fridge and freezer, the inside of the windows and everything else you can see when you walk into each room (plus all those things you can’t see unless you go looking, as prospective buyers almost certainly will).
Once you’ve cleaned everything to a dazzling gleam, you need to rearrange your furniture in a way that ensures there are easy through lines in and out of each room, with spaces between the items of furniture and between the furniture and the walls. If you have a larger piece of furniture in a room, use it as a focal point by placing it along the longest wall.
Make sure that the lighting in each room is as clear as possible to show off the size and potential of the room, and to stop it from looking as though you have something to hide. The best light of all is natural light, so make sure that blinds and curtains are open. If natural daylight isn’t available due to the time of day then make sure that all lamps and light fittings have the right bulbs in and use clear but not intrusive lamps to spread light into all corners of a space.
Maintain the regime
The not-so-good news – particularly if you’re not that keen on housework – is that once you’ve got your house in the condition you want it to be in to show it off, you need to maintain it with a regular cleaning, dusting and polishing regime. The slightly better news is that, once you’ve got your house looking pristine it won’t be as much hard work to keep it that way (although you’ll have to be vigilant for clutter slowly creeping back if the home takes a while to sell).
There’s no escaping the fact that some prospective buyers simply don’t like pets. If you can board your cat or dog with a loving relative for a while then do so, and if this isn’t possible then try to keep them out of the way when people are viewing your home. Consider investing in products which will get rid of any lingering smells, and hide any cat litter or food out of sight.
‘Stage’ some inviting areas around your home. You could put a bowl of fresh fruit in the middle of the kitchen table, for example, or place a comfy chair alongside a table with a tea service on it in front of the window that overlooks the garden.
If your normal colour scheme is something particularly vivid and individual, you may find it useful to go over the walls with a couple of coats of something far more neutral and relaxing, to create that blank canvas for prospective buyers. If you have a series of smaller rooms then using a colour palette which is the same or similar throughout the different areas will help to create a feeling of space by linking the smaller areas together.